Tuesday, August 17, 2010

DC75: The Murder of Batwoman (Detective Comics #485, 1979)

Whether Kathy Kane was created to shore up a trademark or affirm Batman's heterosexuality, the Silver Age Batwoman was not treated with the greatest respect. Created in the heart of the bloodless Post-Wertham era, Batwoman was just one of the many sour notes struck in trying to make the floundering Batman titles more like the successful Superman ones. All the aliens, mites, and such were discarded when Julie Schwartz took over editorship from Jack Schiff, leaving Batwoman with only a handful of further appearances over a fifteen year span. Popping up in Batman Family may have been her undoing, as it perhaps reminded writer Denny O'Neil she existed, a loose end in his sometimes merciless pursuit of an ever darkening Dark Knight.

Batman was investigating the League of Assassins' interest in the former Batwoman, now touring with a circus. Kathy Kane hadn't missed any steps when confronted with lower level killers, but the appearance of the fearsome Bronze Tiger was something else entirely. As Batman blocked a punch, Tiger followed through with a devastating kick which incapacitated the Caped Crusader in very short order. Batman could only watch in horror as an assassin fatally stabbed Kane. Minutes later, the Dark Knight recovered, following a trail of blood to Batwoman's final clue.

Rarely has Batman ever been so thoroughly helpless, and to further frustrate his fans, the detective failed to best Bronze Tiger in a rematch later in the same issue. Batman wasn't even allowed to defeat Kathy's killer, and in a less than feminist angle, Batwoman's murder was only a small link in a conspiratorial chain. Among the first of many bleak, exploitative turns in latter day DC history.

Check out more highlights from the past 75 years of DC Comics at The Truly Most Memorable Moments of the DC Dodranscentennial


mathematicscore said...

I literally just read this today. A friend borrowed me the trade kind of out of nowhere. Creepy.

Yeah, I get the sense that I don't need to expend much energy filling myself in on pre-crisis Batman. Denny O'neil has written a few issues I've really enjoyed (including the finale of Knightsend) but I see now some of his more recent fill in's weren't weak with age, more like he was just weak.

Diabolu Frank said...

Welcome to the collective unconscious. After I got back stateside, and saw how many "memorable moments" posts Liss had done without me, I figured to catch up. I took a gander at my bookshelf, looking for trades that might have some material I could use, and that was the only story that jumped out at me. I forgot I owned it, and that I had a copy of that essential Bronze Tiger story that I'm going to need in a couple months. Win!

I've said it before and will say it again, Denny O'Neil sucked until he got sober in the '80s. He doesn't get objectively good until his Iron Man run, and his best stuff is still The Question. On Batman, it's hard to even read it without feeling like it's a lot closer to the Silver Age than people realized at the time.

Scott said...

Is the Bronze Tiger from Suicide Squad the same one who killed Batwoman? I love DC Comics but don't know much about Bronze Tiger. Thanks for posting.

Diabolu Frank said...

Yes and no. The one and only Bronze Tiger, who later joined the Suicide Squad, was present during the murder of the former Batwoman. He was also responsible for preventing Batman from saving her. However, Turner had been brainwashed prior to the attack, and did not himself kill Kathy Kane. A case could be made for involuntary manslaughter, or some sort of accessory charge, which might explain how he ended up on Task Force X in the first place.

Thanks for reading, Scott!